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January 10, 2013

People of the Times

Ryan AhlRyan Ahl is the new director of Pitt’s Office of Veterans Services.

Since 2010, he has worked as management assistant at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, where his responsibilities included coordinating and planning special events, information management, billing and maintaining records.

In addition, Ahl is the maintenance control officer for G Co. 128th Brigade Support Battalion of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. He received his commission as second lieutenant in July 2012.  From 2010 to 2012, Ryan was staff sergeant/squad leader for A Co. 1/112th Infantry of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, a unit with which he served since 2002. He participated in over 500 missions during his two tours of service in Iraq, and was selected for special duty at Patrol Base Uvanni in Samarra in 2005 during Operation Iraqi Freedom III.

He received the Army Commendation Medal for fulfilling duties above his position in the absence of leadership, and was awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and Combat Spurs for actions taken during his second deployment in 2009.

Ahl will assist the 300-plus student veterans on the Pittsburgh campus, ensuring that they have full access to their government-sponsored educational benefits and the programs offered by the Office of Veterans Services  and the University at large. He also will be facilitating the office’s efforts in supporting student and alumni veterans’ groups on campus: the Student Veterans Association and the Veterans Alumni Council.

Ahl received his bachelor’s degree in history and this month will complete his master’s degree in secondary education at Slippery Rock University.


Ervin Sejdic, faculty member in electrical and computer engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, has been named associate director of the RFID Center of Excellence. Sejdic will assist with providing strategic direction, obtaining funding and collaborating on research at the center.

The center is one of the world’s leaders in radio frequency identification technology and research. The RFID Center of Excellence serves as an international resource to academics and members of the business community.

Sejdic holds a PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Western Ontario. During his undergraduate studies he specialized in wireless communications, while his PhD research focused on signal processing. In 2008-2010 he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto with a cross-appointment at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, Canada’s largest children’s rehabilitation teaching hospital. During his postdoctoral fellowship, he focused on rehabilitation engineering and biomedical instrumentation. He also was a research fellow in medicine at Harvard Medical School, cross-appointed at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he focused on cardiovascular and cerebrovascular monitoring of older/diabetic adults.

After joining the University in 2011, Sejdic established the iMED (Innovative Medical Engineering Developments) lab with the goal of becoming an international leader in dynamical biomarkers indicative of age- and disease-related changes and their contributions to functional decline under normal and pathological conditions. In particular, the mission of the lab is to develop clinically relevant solutions by fostering innovation in computational approaches and instrumentation that can be translated to bedside care.


An essay by Nancy McCabe, a Pitt-Bradford writing faculty member, was chosen as a notable selection for two of Houghton Mifflin’s “Best American” 2012 collections.

Her essay “Threads,” which was published last fall in Prairie Schooner, was named a Notable Essay of 2012 by Best American Essays and a Notable Work of 2012 by Best American Nonrequired Reading. This is the fifth time she has been recognized by Best American Essays.

The essay is the prologue and a chapter from McCabe’s latest book, “Crossing the Blue Willow Bridge: A Journey to My Daughter’s Birthplace in China.”

McCabe is the director of the writing program at Pitt-Bradford and teaches in the brief-residency Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing at Spalding University.


raceballRob Ruck, senior lecturer in the Department of History in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, has been named a runner-up for the 2012 PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing, given to an author of a published nonfiction book about sports.

Ruck’s book, “Raceball: How the Major Leagues Colonized the Black and Latin Game,” was described this way by judges: “With superb research, waste-no-words writing and a clear historical perspective, Ruck presents a compelling reassessment of the influences, struggles and conflicts of baseball’s Negro, Mexican and Caribbean leagues and players in the era leading up to and beyond Jackie Robinson’s ascension to the Major Leagues.”


stanchinaWilliam E. Stanchina, chair of the Swanson School of Engineering’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has been appointed a member of the International Science and Technology Advisory Board for Myfab in Stockholm.

Myfab is an open Swedish research infrastructure that focuses on the research and development of materials science, nanotechnology and information and communications technology. Stanchina will help to improve Myfab’s strategic plan.


bleeDistinguished Professor of Sociology Kathleen Blee has garnered a national award for her book on grassroots activism.

Over a three-year period, Blee closely observed the dynamics of 60 activist efforts emerging in Pittsburgh, on both the political right and left. Her findings are detailed in “Democracy in the Making: How Activist Groups Form.” A look at how ordinary people can change society, the book pinpoints the potential and the boundaries of democratization in grassroots activism.

The Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action has awarded Blee the Virginia Hodgkinson Research Prize for the book. The judges called it “an empirically grounded, theoretically interesting and innovative analysis of fledgling activist groups.”

Blee also is the associate dean for graduate studies and research in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.


David A. Lewis has been elected president of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP).

Lewis is the UPMC Professor in Translational Neuroscience and chair of Pitt’s Department of Psychiatry. He also serves as the director of research and the medical director of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC.

He directs the translational neuroscience program and the National Institute of Mental Health-sponsored Conte Center for the Neuroscience of Mental Disorders, which focuses on understanding the role of prefrontal cortical dysfunction in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia.

David J. Kupfer, Thomas P. Detre Professor of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine, is treasurer of ACNP.

The organization promotes communication among a range of scientific disciplines of brain and behavior to increase the understanding of the causes of disorders of the nervous system.


JuedsKasey Jueds of Philadelphia  has been named the winner of the 2012 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press, for her collection “Keeper.”

The prize, awarded annually for a first full-length book of poems, is named after the first director of the University Press. It carries a cash award of $5,000 and publication by the University Press.

“Keeper” was selected from more than 600 entries, with Ed Ochester, series editor, serving as final judge. The book will be published in the fall.

Jueds explained that the poems in “Keeper” explore art and memory, intimacy and the natural world.

Judge Linda Pastan praised Keeper by saying, “Jueds has a sensitive ear and a sharp eye. These poems of memory, of the natural world and of art go from the specific to the abstract with amazing ease.”

Jueds holds degrees from Harvard and Sarah Lawrence. Her poems have appeared in several publications, including Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, The Manhattan Review, Salamander, Crab Orchard Review, Women’s Review of Books and 5AM.


Richard E. Debski, who is a faculty member in bioengineering at the Swanson School of Engineering with a secondary appointment in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, has been elected a fellow of ASME, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Nominated by their peers, ASME fellows have had at least 10 years of active practice and at least 10 years of active corporate membership in ASME. Of the 117,503 ASME members, only 3,179 have been elected fellows.

Debski is recognized for contributions to the field of shoulder biomechanics, including the elucidation of the structure and function of the ligaments, tendons and capsule at the glenohumeral and acromioclavicular joints, and the effects of injuries and repair procedures on joint motion to improve diagnostic, repair and rehabilitation protocols.


Lynn Emanuel, faculty member in English, has been awarded a Civitella Ranieri writing fellowship for six weeks of residency at Civitella Ranieri Center, an international artists’ retreat in Umbria, Italy.

Artists must be nominated for the Civitella Ranieri fellowships before they can apply.


The School of Medicine distributed awards to faculty at the 2012 curriculum colloquium.

• Distinguished Service in Medical Education Award: Kathleen D. Ryan, assistant dean for medical education.

• Kenneth E. Schuit Award, recognizing the dean’s master educators: Melissa A. McNeil, medicine, and Christine Milcarek, immunology.

• Sheldon Adler Award for Innovation in Medical Education: Larisa J. Geskin, dermatology; Douglas W. Lienesch, medicine; Thomas A. Medsger, medicine; Chester V. Oddis, medicine, and Adam M. Yates, emergency medicine.

• Donald S. Fraley Award for Medical Student Mentoring: Richard A. Steinman, medicine.

• William I. Cohen Award for Excellence in Clinical Skills Instruction: Stephanie B. Dewar, pediatrics; Margaret L. Watt-Morse, obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences.

• Clerkship Preceptor of the Year Award: Pierre N. Azzam, psychiatry; Christopher J. Bartels, surgery; Aaron M. Brown, emergency medicine; Amanda W. Brown, pediatrics; Peggy B. Hasley, medicine; Jerry L. Lowder, obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences; Jacqueline S. Weaver-Agostoni, Shadyside Family Medicine; Cynthia Wells, anesthesiology.

• Award for Excellence in Clinical Precepting: Leo J. Bastiaens, psychiatry; Lawrence J. Butler, pediatrics; George H. Gleeson, medicine; Jill M. Owens, Bradford Family Medicine.

• Curriculum Service Award: Paula R. Clemens, neurology; Patricia K. Eagon, medicine; Philip Troen, medicine.

• Clinical Educator of the Year Award: Giselle G. Hamad, surgery; Eric D. Rickin, psychiatry.

• 2012 Excellence in Education Awards, presented by the Class of 2015: Course director, John B. Schumann, neurobiology; lecturer, James D. Tew Jr., psychiatry; small-group facilitator, Andrew J. Nowalk, pediatrics.

• 2012 Excellence in Education Awards, presented by the Class of 2014: course director, James R. Johnston, medicine; lecturer, John W. Kreit, medicine; small-group facilitator, Sandy M. Green, cardiology; James R. Johnston, medicine; Jenifer E. Lee, medicine.


English department faculty member Toi Derricotte has been  awarded one of two inaugural Carol R. Brown Creative Achievement Awards. Derricotte won in the established artist category.

Derricotte has published five collections of poetry and co-founded Cave Canem Foundation for African-American poets. She serves on the Academy of American Poets’ Board of Chancellors.

The awards, sponsored by The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments, include a $15,000 prize for each winner.

The awards are part of a program designed to support artists through the creative process, from concept to completion.

Candidates were nominated by artists and arts leaders. An independent panel reviewed applications and work samples.

Twenty-five applications were submitted by nominees from dance, film and video, literature, multidisciplinary arts, music, theater and visual arts.

The awards honor Carol R. Brown, who led the cultural and economic transformation of Downtown’s Cultural District as president of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, 1986-2001.


Two members of the Pitt-Johnstown staff have been recognized for outstanding service.

• Karen Barrick, office manager for Housing and Residence Life, received the President’s Staff Award for Excellence in Service to the Community.

A member of the Pitt-Johnstown staff for seven years, Barrick has volunteered for more than 15 years as a Girl Scout troop leader and recently has transitioned into a volunteer role with the Girl Scouts’ Camp Conshatawba program team.

She also has been a long-time volunteer coach for both the middle and high school color guards in the Windber Area School District and is a First Aid and CPR instructor with the American Red Cross.

• Todd Shaffer, associate director of Housing and Residence Life, received the President’s Staff Award for Excellence in Service to Pitt-Johnstown.

An eight-year employee at Pitt-Johnstown, Shaffer was recognized for his commitment to improving service to students while maximizing operational efficiency of his department through establishing and nurturing positive working relationships with several departments on campus.

Administrators said that through Shaffer’s open-door policy, he has established an excellent rapport with students that creates an environment in which communication and respect are enhanced.


The People of the Times column features recent news on faculty and staff, including awards and other honors, accomplishments and administrative appointments.

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